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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Wednesday's Picks

Because the best way to feign actual knowledge on a subject is an accurate prediction, I introduce The Picks. Every weekday, Monday-Thursday (hopefully) I will pick the televised games of the night, against the spread of course, and follow the results to see if I actually know something about basketball. The results should be both entertaining (for readers) and soul-crushing (for me). And if I'm wrong, I'll just do what all the TV "experts" do: never bring it up again and avoid all accountability. And since I won't be betting actual money (that often), I win every time!

I'll also be occasionally picking against one of my roommates, Craig, so we can have a rational method of settling all disputes involving rent, household matters, etc.

Last Night
: Wow. Another mid-major game on ESPN, another incredible game. So remind me, why do they have to air Michigan-Ohio State? Ever? I mean, this is a down year for the mid-majors and the past two nights the West Coast Conference and the Horizon League have provided two of the better games of the season. AJ Graves, he of the Meandering Goatee Amalgam, showed some pigment-defying quickness in the final minutes, hitting three big shots and setting up the game-winning three (which came after an airball free throw by a guy that had just hit two three-point daggers). And not only was it a great game, but the Bulldogs (-3) managed to pull off a push (even though a missed free throw negated the outright cover... drats). Hopefully these type of games mean more mid-majors for Rivalry Week, even if it means making up some contrived rivalries to do so. Because...

...the other two games, featuring teams from abhorrently mediocre major conferences, the Big Ten and the SEC, were pretty damn awful. I didn't subject myself to such displays but apparently Michigan hung tough with a pretty bad Ohio State (-14) team and fell by 10. And despite being down 16-3 in the game, Tennessee(-9) ended up rolling on a crapped-in-pants Florida team by 22, scoring 60 in the second half. Tennessee is a good squad, but man do the Big Ten and SEC suck. Both wins for me though! Yippee!

Connecticut at Syracuse (-3)- In a Something's Gotta Give Game, between two teams with winning streaks longer than they should have in the Clusterfuck That Is The Big East, Vegas seems to be back on board with the Orange after four straight wins ATS (3-1 straight-up). Plus with Cuse only having like three players or something, the Saturday-Wednesday schedule is about as good as it can get. But the Huskies have won five straight overall, including four against top 40 teams and appear to be a top 3 Big East team. As much as it pains me to say, their inside toughness might be too much for the soft middle of the Orange zone and if they can't keep AJ Price out of the paint (few have been able to accomplish such things) the Cuse might have one of those 90-point defensive nights.
/praying that I'm wrong
The Pick: Connecticut

Craig's Pick- At the beginning of the season after watching UCONN play Memphis tough for 35 minutes at the Garden, I proclaimed they were going to be a top 3 Big East team, only to be laughed at by many. Who’s laughing now?!?! (Ed. note: You said they would win the Big East. I am still moderately chuckling.) I’ll take them with the points against a very weak defensive team any day.
The Pick: UCONN

Texas at Oklahoma (-2.5)- The more I look at this one, the harder it is to pick. Both teams have been battling inconsistency this year and while Texas has the huge advantage in the backcourt, I'm not sure the Longhorns can handle the Sooners front court. Both teams have pretty identical statistics as well and both teams' star players (DJ Augustin and Blake Griffin) are due for a breakout. So what do you do in this situation? As a college basketball writer do you dig deep down to divine some kind of hidden advantage that one team might have? Maybe a quirk in the offense, maybe a seldom-used defense that could find its way on the court? Do you look into the very soul of the players to see who has what it takes to overcome such a closely-contested battle?... Nah, you just take the home team.
The Pick: Oklahoma

Craig's Pick- I don’t have much to say about this game. I like the home team as well – just not a huge of this Texas team as the season goes along.
The Pick: Oklahoma

Duke at North Carolina (-4)- The game that has everything this year. No. 2 vs. No. 3; Coach K vs. Roy Williams; Hansbrough vs. Henderson; speed vs. even more freaking speed; Dick Vitale vs. the just-back-from-vacation collective ear drum of America; Mike Patrick vs. the retinas of HD viewers. But what might be more important than all of that nonsense is the apparent absence of Ty Lawson due to injury. In what is sure to be a ridiculously fast-paced game, Lawson would've been the perfect counterattack to Duke's helter-skelter style and would've been a nightmare for the Duke backcourt. Instead it will be Quentin Thomas, certainly a capable player, but not quite surehanded enough to run that incredible UNC break, one that they will need more than ever tonight, with nearly as much efficiency as Lawson. Now, Williams might try to slow it down because of that, which would also utilize the Heels size advantage in the halfcourt but in order for that to work UNC needs to create easy shots and make some not-so-easy shots, something they haven't been all that capable of doing this year (especially without Lawson). But regardless of the X's and O's and the analysis, I'm more worried about just sitting back and enjoying this one. It truly is the best rivalry in college basketball -- even if you hate both teams -- and it just so happens to be No. 2 vs. No. 3 this year. And that crazy, senile, shouting old man, who we were so relieved to spend a few months without is going to be back. And like all crazy, senile, shouting old men, no matter how obnoxious or smelly or picked ripe from the bowels of hell he might be, it's still a little more entertaining to have him around. Enjoy folks.
The Pick: Duke

Craig's Pick- I think JTom is giving Roy Williams way too much credit above, in suggesting that he might actually try to deploy some sort of game plan due to Lawson not playing. False. Williams doesn’t really coach, he just lets his guys play and they are better than the other guys most of the time. I don’t think that will work against Coach K tonight. Tough to pick the road team in this matchup (Ed. note: True, but the road team has won two of the last three in this series, for what it's worth), but when you’re getting 4 points it makes it a little easier.
The Pick: Duke

Last night's record: 2-0-1
Overall record: 21-17-4

ACC: 3-4
Big 12: 3-3-2
Big East: 4-4-1
Big Ten: 5-1
SEC: 3-2
Missouri Valley: 1-0
West Coast: 2-1
Big West: 0-1
CAA: 0-1
Horizon: 0-0-1

Craig's record: 8-11-2



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